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Verbal
12-08-2014, 09:58 AM
Hi gang.

So, there I was, happily writing TV scripts when the damnedest thing happened. I started writing this Sci-Fi story that gave me incredible enjoyment because (i) I didn't have to worry about a budget (ii) I didn't have to worry about how my lines would be read by the eye candy and (iii) I didn't have to write in present tense!!!!

I tell you, it was like putting on a new style of undies. And I liked it!

Well, a few thousand words turned to almost fifty thousand, and I've stopped writing scripts all together (for the time being). Still thinking all Hollywood, I figured I might be able to pitch (query letter) what I have and maybe get an advance.

Okay, I heard those look-at-the-noob snickers. And okay, fine, I'm somewhat of a noob with this form, but would it be a complete waste of time to go out with, say, the first six chapters? I feel like it's better to finish the thing at around 100k words, but that's gonna take a minute. It would be very awesome to get an advance and finish the thing under deadline.

Would love any thoughts (even the snickers) you might have on this.

Thanks!

Verbal

Unimportant
12-08-2014, 10:09 AM
Hi gang.

So, there I was, happily writing TV scripts when the damnedest thing happened. I started writing this Sci-Fi story that gave me incredible enjoyment because (i) I didn't have to worry about a budget (ii) I didn't have to worry about how my lines would be read by the eye candy and (iii) I didn't have to write in present tense!!!!

I tell you, it was like putting on a new style of undies. And I liked it!

Well, a few thousand words turned to almost fifty thousand, and I've stopped writing scripts all together (for the time being). Still thinking all Hollywood, I figured I might be able to pitch (query letter) what I have and maybe get an advance.

Okay, I heard those look-at-the-noob snickers. And okay, fine, I'm somewhat of a noob with this form, but would it be a complete waste of time to go out with, say, the first six chapters? I feel like it's better to finish the thing at around 100k words, but that's gonna take a minute. It would be very awesome to get an advance and finish the thing under deadline.

Would love any thoughts (even the snickers) you might have on this.

Thanks!

Verbal

Most of the large publishig houses only accept agented submissions. So, unless you have a literary agent, they won't even consider your ms. Those that do accept unagented submissions (Baen, DAW, Tor) have a response time that usually measures in years, quite literally, so by the time they get back to you it's likely you'll have finished writing the book, plus a couple of sequels.

To get a literary agent, you really need to have a finished ms. Unless you are a household name (and, sorry, but I don't know squat about screenwriters, so maybe you are a household name) an agent is unlikely to consider an incomplete manuscript.

Also, be aware that the average advance for a SF novel is around $5 - 10K. You won't get rich fast at this game.

Thuro
12-08-2014, 10:11 AM
Just out of curiosity what were you writing for hollywood?

cornflake
12-08-2014, 10:15 AM
Hi gang.

So, there I was, happily writing TV scripts when the damnedest thing happened. I started writing this Sci-Fi story that gave me incredible enjoyment because (i) I didn't have to worry about a budget (ii) I didn't have to worry about how my lines would be read by the eye candy and (iii) I didn't have to write in present tense!!!!

I tell you, it was like putting on a new style of undies. And I liked it!

Well, a few thousand words turned to almost fifty thousand, and I've stopped writing scripts all together (for the time being). Still thinking all Hollywood, I figured I might be able to pitch (query letter) what I have and maybe get an advance.

Okay, I heard those look-at-the-noob snickers. And okay, fine, I'm somewhat of a noob with this form, but would it be a complete waste of time to go out with, say, the first six chapters? I feel like it's better to finish the thing at around 100k words, but that's gonna take a minute. It would be very awesome to get an advance and finish the thing under deadline.

Would love any thoughts (even the snickers) you might have on this.

Thanks!

Verbal

It'd be awesome to get a pony.

No, you can't. You probably want to do some research into publishing.

You also don't get an advance off a query. You get an advance from a publisher, who buys the rights to a completed novel that's likely been massaged by an agent/agency. The publishing house does so after several people read the manuscript, discuss it, debate purchasing it or not, where it might fit in their releases, etc., etc.

You get an agent to submit to publishers after sending out queries for a completed work that the agent will request, if said agent is interested.

Wait times on queries can range from minutes to months; wait times to hear back from requests by agents to read the full can range from weeks to months, etc.

If you have an agent who will shop something for you, or you're Aaron Sorkin, consider the above somewhere between needing to be truncated and utterly moot, but given you mention neither of those options...

Verbal
12-08-2014, 10:42 AM
Unimportant-

$5-10k!? That's a shock.

I'm most definitely not a household name. Sometimes, I wonder if I am in my own household.

I get it. Finish the book. Make it awesome. Maybe then you'll have upgrade from snowflake to snowball's chance in hell.

Verbal
12-08-2014, 10:44 AM
Just out of curiosity what were you writing for hollywood?

Sit-com pilots. Sold two. Neither got picked up.

Verbal
12-08-2014, 10:59 AM
It'd be awesome to get a pony.

No, you can't. You probably want to do some research into publishing.

You also don't get an advance off a query. You get an advance from a publisher, who buys the rights to a completed novel that's likely been massaged by an agent/agency. The publishing house does so after several people read the manuscript, discuss it, debate purchasing it or not, where it might fit in their releases, etc., etc.

You get an agent to submit to publishers after sending out queries for a completed work that the agent will request, if said agent is interested.

Wait times on queries can range from minutes to months; wait times to hear back from requests by agents to read the full can range from weeks to months, etc.

If you have an agent who will shop something for you, or you're Aaron Sorkin, consider the above somewhere between needing to be truncated and utterly moot, but given you mention neither of those options...

Get a pony... That was going to be my next thread! *laughing*

My agent only does Hollywood and said he might be able to sell the movie/TV rights, but I don't want to even think about that without a finished manuscript. So I'll probably have to get a separate publishing agent.

I'm definitely not Aaron Sorkin. So, yeah, I guess I better find out more about the whole publishing world.

Unimportant
12-08-2014, 11:22 AM
Unimportant-

$5-10k!? That's a shock.

I'm most definitely not a household name. Sometimes, I wonder if I am in my own household.

I get it. Finish the book. Make it awesome. Maybe then you'll have upgrade from snowflake to snowball's chance in hell.
Well, not quite snowball, but.... Of course, it's not truly an odds game: manuscripts don't get picked at random to be published. If you have an excellent manuscript, your odds are good. If you have a crap manuscript, your odds are zero. But for any random new author on a random day, without knowing where on the bell curve their ms sits, the odds of selling a novel to a big publisher is, AFAIK, somewhere between 1:1000 and 1:10,000.

The info and links in this post (http://www.sfwa.org/2010/03/first-novel-sales-the-data/) are a bit outdated, but still pretty relevent.

Roxxsmom
12-08-2014, 11:54 AM
Here are the data (http://community.scratchmag.net/book-advances-gender/) for the amounts of the advances for debut novels sold (at least the ones reported to publishers marketplace) for the 2010-2014 time period.

The data for SF and F is down on the page a ways, and it's interesting to note that there were only 13 debut author deals reported to publisher's marketplace for SF and F during that entire 4 year period (which is really depressing. I had no idea there were so few new authors entering the fold). I also don't know what percentage of deals are reported there, and if there's a bias towards big 5 publishing deals, or if deals with small presses are also included.

Since they lump advances below 49,000 together, it's hard to pinpoint the exact size of most advances for first-time novels or to determine which of these were for single books versus multi book contracts. I don't have paid access to Publisher's Marketplac (http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/)e (it's pretty pricey), so I don't have access to the numbers they used to create these graphs.

It's my understanding that debut SF and F writers almost never get contracts without shopping at least one finished book (usually via an agent). I know at least a couple who got multi book contracts when the subsequent books weren't finished yet, however. It's different, maybe, for writers who are already celebrities (I'm sure famous actors known in the SF and F community who say they want to write a SF book will get a huge advance before it's written, and if they're not up to the task themselves, someone will find them a ghost writer), or possibly for people who have some connections in the industry or who have published successful books already in other genres.

To Verbal: a good site for learning about the pitfalls and scams in the publishing industry is Writer Beware (http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/), and a good site for learning about Querying agents is Query Shark (http://queryshark.blogspot.com/). And the SFWA (http://www.sfwa.org/) has a lot of information relevant to writing SF and F that is available to non members.

Mr Flibble
12-08-2014, 01:18 PM
it's interesting to note that there were only 13 debut author deals reported to publisher's marketplace for SF and F during that entire 4 year period

There were a ton more debuts than that, so don't be too depressed!

Anyway, and this is for fantasy not SF where things may be slightly different -- yes, you need to have the first book done. For subsequent deals you may not. This is because at this point you are an unknown entity. Maybe you'll get bored and not finish the series. Maybe you're a total flake. Maybe you got someone else to write this book for you and you can't write for toffee. Maybe you'll argue every damn point in the edits. Maybe you'll be on the phone to your editor at 3am twice a week complaining no one understands your genius.

Once they know you can and will edit, that you aren't about to declare you're a dog, that you can in fact finish a series to a satisfactory level without a single 3am phone call, then perhaps you can sell a series on just a proposal. But until they know that, you need a finished book

Unless you're, I don't know, Simon Pegg or something.

cornflake
12-08-2014, 01:27 PM
Here are the data (http://community.scratchmag.net/book-advances-gender/) for the amounts of the advances for debut novels sold (at least the ones reported to publishers marketplace) for the 2010-2014 time period.

As you note, it's the data for advances for things people reported to PM, which means it leaves out a vast number, perhaps the majority, of sales.

The data for SF and F is down on the page a ways, and it's interesting to note that there were only 13 debut author deals reported to publisher's marketplace for SF and F during that entire 4 year period (which is really depressing. I had no idea there were so few new authors entering the fold). I also don't know what percentage of deals are reported there, and if there's a bias towards big 5 publishing deals, or if deals with small presses are also included.

There aren't that few. It is, afaik, a very small percentage.

Since they lump advances below 49,000 together, it's hard to pinpoint the exact size of most advances for first-time novels or to determine which of these were for single books versus multi book contracts. I don't have paid access to Publisher's Marketplac (http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/)e (it's pretty pricey), so I don't have access to the numbers they used to create these graphs.

It's my understanding that debut SF and F writers almost never get contracts without shopping at least one finished book (usually via an agent). I know at least a couple who got multi book contracts when the subsequent books weren't finished yet, however. It's different, maybe, for writers who are already celebrities (I'm sure famous actors known in the SF and F community who say they want to write a SF book will get a huge advance before it's written, and if they're not up to the task themselves, someone will find them a ghost writer), or possibly for people who have some connections in the industry or who have published successful books already in other genres.

To Verbal: a good site for learning about the pitfalls and scams in the publishing industry is Writer Beware (http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/), and a good site for learning about Querying agents is Query Shark (http://queryshark.blogspot.com/). And the SFWA (http://www.sfwa.org/) has a lot of information relevant to writing SF and F that is available to non members.

Agents who report deals to PM are likely ones who want to tout the deals, and who have permission to do so. It's not likely the majority, who get decent, regular deals, as Unimportant alludes to.

To get a six-figure, or close, advance on a debut novel is not unheard of, but it's rare and usually the result of a confluence of particular factors.

sabindanjoup
12-08-2014, 04:19 PM
...
Well, a few thousand words turned to almost fifty thousand, and I've stopped writing scripts all together (for the time being). Still thinking all Hollywood, I figured I might be able to pitch (query letter) what I have and maybe get an advance.

Okay, I heard those look-at-the-noob snickers. And okay, fine, I'm somewhat of a noob with this form, but would it be a complete waste of time to go out with, say, the first six chapters? I feel like it's better to finish the thing at around 100k words, but that's gonna take a minute. It would be very awesome to get an advance and finish the thing under deadline.
...

Writers who have an established track record *sell* books on the strength of a query and an outline all the time. (http://misssnark.blogspot.in/2007/02/selling-unfinished-work.html)
The rest of us struggle to get agents and editors to read our *finished* manuscripts. Getting a book deal is hard enough, let alone a large advance.
Getting a large advance as a debut author means his agent got a publisher to pre-emt (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=91161) the book to keep it from going to auction, or that it actually went into one.
It sucks, but that's the way the industry works. :)

Filigree
12-08-2014, 04:52 PM
It's also not the end of the author's journey. A SFF series that went to auction or got snapped up in a pre-empt, may be dropped by its publisher not long after. (Harry Connolly's 'Twenty Palaces' is one example, but I've seen others.)

Book publishing is a strange business. The more you know about how different facets work, the better your chances of writing publishable work. One of the great things? There may be less competition for good novels than for good screenplays, so you'd have a better chance of selling the former. (I have this from a couple of LA screenwriters, who swear that 'Episodes' is God's Own Truth.)

Roxxsmom
12-09-2014, 01:59 AM
There were a ton more debuts than that, so don't be too depressed!

The article only reported US markets, so it wouldn't include data from the UK, Canadian, or Australian publishers, at least.

I honestly don't know what percentage of agents or editors report sales to publishers marketplace, or whether it's just big 5 or whatever. Still, the number is depressingly small and explains why I was having trouble hunting down data on the word counts of recent debut fantasy novels.

I remember reading somewhere that a large advance as a debut writer can be problematic too, as it puts the publisher very much in the red and they'll be more likely to pull the plug if sales take a while to ramp up. As a rule, new writers take some time to build a readership, because in a market that's filled with offerings from established authors in one's genre (plus flooded with self-published stuff these days), and with few brick and mortar bookstores left, it can take a long time for potential readers to even hear about your work, let alone read it and get their own accolades out there.

And consider that in spite of the genre having an active fandom, the majority of SF and F readers are probably solitary beasts who may not even talk about their favorite books and authors with their friends, on or offline. I get teased a bit sometimes for my choice of reading material when I pull a SF or F book out at an agility trial. I'm old enough that I don't care much anymore, but younger readers can be sensitive to peer pressure if they're not actively geeky enough to embrace fandom, or if SF and F is just one of many genres they read.

It's tough out there, and things are in flux right now.

Verbal
12-09-2014, 08:42 AM
Awww, I just fell in love with this group. Comere, all of ya', I wanna hug ya'! Okay, yes, I have been drinking a bit. But still!

So much good advice, and it feels so positive and real. I want to thank you all for your excellent acumen. Although, now you've gone and done it: I'm going to hang around and comment on stuff.

Lots to learn. I'm excited!

Verbal
12-09-2014, 08:54 AM
It's also not the end of the author's journey. A SFF series that went to auction or got snapped up in a pre-empt, may be dropped by its publisher not long after. (Harry Connolly's 'Twenty Palaces' is one example, but I've seen others.)

Book publishing is a strange business. The more you know about how different facets work, the better your chances of writing publishable work. One of the great things? There may be less competition for good novels than for good screenplays, so you'd have a better chance of selling the former. (I have this from a couple of LA screenwriters, who swear that 'Episodes' is God's Own Truth.)

Competition among screenwriters feels harder than ever, and asking someone to read your script gets a reaction like you just asked them to clean your toilet.

I started writing this book thinking it would provide excellent birdcage liner for years to come (which is probably why it's some of my better writing). But now I'm starting to think I may have a shot.

Here's one from Hollywood that you may or may not know: studios pay some companies around $50k a year to read manuscripts (published and unpublished) and recommend the best for development.

Have any of you attempted to shop your stuff in reverse order? Hollywood first. Publishing second?

Locke
12-09-2014, 09:11 AM
So what you should do now is apply your knowledge of how Hollywood scripts are structured and write books that lend themselves to that, so you can sell the book and double-dip on the film option.

Verbal
12-09-2014, 09:52 AM
So what you should do know is apply your knowledge of how Hollywood scripts are structured and write books that lend themselves to that, so you can sell the book and double-dip on the film option.

That WOULD be awesome. The novelist can also negotiate for the first crack at the script, so that's usually some good dough.

Now, if I can just be brilliant. You know, no pressure or anything.

Locke
12-09-2014, 09:55 AM
Know - now

I are rite gud

*shamed*